While an infant is not ready to talk at such an early stage, he is however equipped and ready to soak in all the things you want to tell him about conversations and language. These early interactions will help develop his language and social interaction capabilities. Most parents routinely talk or sing to their babies while attending to their chores around the house or with the baby. By talking and singing, you are conveying to your child that voice is the primary means of communication – a vital input for him!
The first 2 months of cooing and gurgling expands itself over the next few months into full fledged babbling. Your baby may begin to say “papa” or “mama” when he is around 7-8 months. While this is a joyous moment and most of us like to believe that our child has called us by name and we happily write down the day he said these first words, it generally is a few months before they actually call our name. However, this is an important beginning because these repetitive syllables begin to take on the intonations and rhythms of the baby’s tongue and soon the babbling evolves into an indecipherable version of his parent’s language.
Following are some ways that help a parent develop their child’s early language skills and develop social behaviour
Imitation and Encouragement
Ever so often, when your baby babbles and makes a sound, playfully and encouragingly imitate your baby and repeat the sound. At the same time, teach words in return. This will help them build a pattern where they begin to understand that their little words are being acknowledged (when you imitate their sounds) and also builds motivation in them to learn more and more (by your encouragement) by way of mutual imitation between you and the baby. Another important aspect is that babies are subtly beginning to understand how social interactions happen in the world around them. They are learning all about conversations – they talk and then people respond.
Pointing and Naming
As your baby grows up, he is also building a great curiosity for things around him. You can build on this curiosity by pointing out at objects and naming them for him. This shows to him that there are lots of objects around him to learn about and also that pointing is a way of learning. In the beginning, it is amusing how if you point out at an object, your baby looks only at your outstretched hand or fingers and not at the object they are pointing to. But soon, he will soon learn that he can use his hands to point out at objects around him. This will make him ask you by pointing out objects. This is a great game and children would love doing this for hours. This game also indicates o your baby that things around them have names and this is a vital discovery for categorizing the world.
Action based communication
As your baby begins to understand objects and also how to handle some of the objects, he may begin to communicate by babbling combined with an action to reinforce his idea. For example, he may point to a ball for you to play along with him, or point to a glass if he wants his milk or juice and so on. Although your baby may not yet speak, language learning is definitely taking place in a positive manner. If you respond to your baby’s actions by responding to the action (such as playing or fetching juice), you are motivating them to continue communicating and also encouraging them with your words, smiles and gestures. This in turn will lead to your baby developing receptive language – the ability to understand the language without necessarily speaking it. Your baby will soon learn to understand key phrases in their daily routine such as “sleep time”, or “milk time” or “we will go to the park”
One of the most effective and wonderful ways of language development and socializing with your baby is the habit of reading or showing pictures to your baby. They love to see colourful and large pictures. You should run your fingers slowly over the writing around the picture. This will help them develop their alphabet beginnings and written language skills. Ensure you read about the same set of pictures a few times before moving on the next. This will help them to reinforce their understanding and repetitive learning is one of the most effective tools of learning for the young.
Note to Parent
Generally, babies will not use productive language (real talking) until sometime beyond their first year. The actual time when their vocabulary progresses from words to phrases and then sentences, greatly varies from child to child. The best way to gauge your child’s developmental milestones is not necessarily the language he produces but his comprehension of the language. It is important for parents to gauge at how inquisitive their baby is in understanding the environment, comprehension of the objects around them, attention span and reciprocation to communication.
Parents should reach out for further investigation if a baby is not attentive, not interested in the surroundings and remains quiet and uninvolved by the age of 12 months.